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Khatami: Quake Aid Won't Alter US-Iran Political Differences - 2003-12-30

With estimates running as high as 50,000 killed following Friday's earthquake in the southeastern city of Bam, international assistance, including aid from the United States, continues to pour into the shattered city. On Tuesday a team of U.S. doctors arrived to help care for local residents. But, Iran's president says that while U.S. assistance is welcomed, it will not change political differences between the two countries.

Although the United States has sent tons of emergency supplies and a large team of doctors to the devastated Iranian city of Bam, Iran's president says the humanitarian assistance would not change Tehran's relations with Washington.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said that while he welcomed aid from the United States, only a profound change in U.S. policy would settle political differences between Iran and the United States.

A team of 80 U.S. doctors arrived in southeastern Iran Monday with medical and emergency supplies as the search and rescue phase from Friday's earthquake transitions to humanitarian assistance.

Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless by the earthquake that all but destroyed the ancient city of Bam. Thousands have been without shelter in near-freezing nighttime temperatures.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi praised U.S. assistance and said he would meet with the team of American doctors in Bam.

Sunday, the first U.S. military flight to Iran since 1981 arrived in the Islamic republic carrying tons of emergency supplies.

Diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran have been cut since 1980 following the Iranian revolution that resulted in the taking of American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Meanwhile, hundreds of mechanical diggers continued excavating mass graves for the tens of thousands of victims of Friday's quake.

Aid workers are pleading for more donations of clothing, blankets, tents, cooking sets and medicines, as the shattered historic city digs out from tons of rubble and debris left in the aftermath of the deadly temblor that all but completely destroyed Bam.